Dr. Joe

Sometimes Winning is Losing

 

Now that I’m retired I spend more time following La Canada athletics.  I’m a La Canada High School booster, a true blue fan of the Spartans.   On 16 January, I attended a Spartan varsity soccer game at LCHS; we were playing Temple City.

I was excited to see our team touted as being quite good.  I have certain expectations of both coaches and athletes relative to deportment necessary for the spirit of the game.  A coach does more than create potential outcomes of success.  Athletes in turn are genetically linked to the Greek word Arête meaning the quest for excellence.  The Greeks took Arête one-step further and via moral philosophy created the concept of virtue.

What LCHS coach and athletes exhibited at the end of the game was the antithesis of virtue.

In the waning moments of the game there was rough play directed toward an LCHS player.  That’s part of athletics and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  However, what ensued as a result was reprehensible conduct.  When you don’t see deportment, it shakes your faith right where you stand.

At the end of a game it is customary for both teams to approach the center of the field, shake hands and continue to the opposing side and applaud their opponents fans.  The LCHS soccer team sat on their bench and ignored the pleasantries and sportsmanship of their opponents, Temple City.  As a booster of LCHS athletics I was embarrassed by this display of disrespect for the coach, the team, and the school.  How can we be committed to our Spartans when they exhibit such behavior?

My sensibilities are not sensitive.  I have been in every hellhole in the pacific and seen every grievous act that man can inflict upon another.  Subsequently, I have thick skin.  However, what I saw at the game under the banner of the red and gold, made me wish I wasn’t a booster.

What are we teaching our children?  Am I the Lone Ranger on this and the only one who sees a problem?  Before you lay a foundation on the soccer field, you develop a solid foundation of character.  That’s where you start to build.  We need coaches and a community dedicated to teaching those actions and attitudes that create a superior organization.  If that’s your goal, the score takes care of itself.

I’m not finished!

A few weeks prior to this incident, an LCHS player stormed off the field in anger, threw one of the field markers on the track, and sulked under the stands.  What was his lesson for this childish behavior?  His behavior was enabled as he started the next game!

Normally, after taking shots at athletics, I get assorted e-mails: Dr. Joe!  You don’t know a thing about competition; you’re not an athlete.  Why do athletic aficionados believe that to have an opinion, one should be vested in the club?  The exclusivity of this club mandates athletic success that is primarily defined by the score.  Thus most my comments will be ignored and cited as obtrusive.   Everyone should have a vested interest in our teams because they are representative of who we are as a community.

The Greeks created an athletic culture where-by winning was valued not for its own sake but for the moral virtues that contribute to victory.  The institution has to decide whether or not the evolution of character is foundational to their athletic program.  We should be more concerned with our character than our stature in the CIF because our character is who we are.

The Spartans had six goals Temple city had none.  But it was Temple city who will win in the end.

I have a lot of questions.  If such blatant actions are happening on the field, what’s going on in the locker room?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on by Dr. Joe in Thoughts from Dr. Joe Leave a comment

Now that I’m retired I spend more time following La Canada athletics.  I’m a La Canada High School booster, a true blue fan of the Spartans.   On 16 January, I attended a Spartan varsity soccer game at LCHS; we were playing Temple City.

I was excited to see our team touted as being quite good.  I have certain expectations of both coaches and athletes relative to deportment necessary for the spirit of the game.  A coach does more than create potential outcomes of success.  Athletes in turn are genetically linked to the Greek word Arête meaning the quest for excellence.  The Greeks took Arête one-step further and via moral philosophy created the concept of virtue.

What LCHS coach and athletes exhibited at the end of the game was the antithesis of virtue.

In the waning moments of the game there was rough play directed toward an LCHS player.  That’s part of athletics and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  However, what ensued as a result was reprehensible conduct.  When you don’t see deportment, it shakes your faith right where you stand.

At the end of a game it is customary for both teams to approach the center of the field, shake hands and continue to the opposing side and applaud their opponents fans.  The LCHS soccer team sat on their bench and ignored the pleasantries and sportsmanship of their opponents, Temple City.  As a booster of LCHS athletics I was embarrassed by this display of disrespect for the coach, the team, and the school.  How can we be committed to our Spartans when they exhibit such behavior?

My sensibilities are not sensitive.  I have been in every hellhole in the pacific and seen every grievous act that man can inflict upon another.  Subsequently, I have thick skin.  However, what I saw at the game under the banner of the red and gold, made me wish I wasn’t a booster.

What are we teaching our children?  Am I the Lone Ranger on this and the only one who sees a problem?  Before you lay a foundation on the soccer field, you develop a solid foundation of character.  That’s where you start to build.  We need coaches and a community dedicated to teaching those actions and attitudes that create a superior organization.  If that’s your goal, the score takes care of itself.

I’m not finished!

A few weeks prior to this incident, an LCHS player stormed off the field in anger, threw one of the field markers on the track, and sulked under the stands.  What was his lesson for this childish behavior?  His behavior was enabled as he started the next game!

Normally, after taking shots at athletics, I get assorted e-mails: Dr. Joe!  You don’t know a thing about competition; you’re not an athlete.  Why do athletic aficionados believe that to have an opinion, one should be vested in the club?  The exclusivity of this club mandates athletic success that is primarily defined by the score.  Thus most my comments will be ignored and cited as obtrusive.   Everyone should have a vested interest in our teams because they are representative of who we are as a community.

The Greeks created an athletic culture where-by winning was valued not for its own sake but for the moral virtues that contribute to victory.  The institution has to decide whether or not the evolution of character is foundational to their athletic program.  We should be more concerned with our character than our stature in the CIF because our character is who we are.

The Spartans had six goals Temple city had none.  But it was Temple city who will win in the end.

I have a lot of questions.  If such blatant actions are happening on the field, what’s going on in the locker room?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on by Dr. Joe in Thoughts from Dr. Joe Leave a comment

Starting Over

December 12th appeared like any other manic Monday.  I drove my girls to LCHS, went to Starbucks, and continued my struggle with chapter 12 searching for the right words that would give readers an ‘ah ha’ moment.

The weather was sunny… a beautiful Indian summers’ day.  If you’ve been to New England in October, you would understand.  Alen made a café latte and I sat in the sun memorized by the aromatic vapors oozing from my favorite ceramic cup.  I wrote page after page, and didn’t care that I would eventually delete most of it.

When I was in the bowels of Vietnam I promised myself such moments if I were to return.  Life did not get any better than this!

As I watched the remaining leaves cascading from the trees, I said, “Today… I’m going to retire!” 

I went to school, signed papers, and began the process of closing the door on 37 years of teaching, counseling, saving souls, mending hearts, and patching self-esteems.  Facebook, the new Paul Revere spread the news through the veins of the social networks, “Dr. Joe is retiring.”

My last day was December 19th.  My office was inundated with 100’s of books: history, literature, philosophy, biography, adventure, psychology, and humanities were testaments of the transference of knowledge that happened there.  

My four walls were covered from floor to ceiling with pictures of students from 1975 to 2012.  The plan was to dismantle the office at 7 PM.  Students from the 80’s, 90’s and beyond began to arrive, and as planned began the slow methodical process of transforming a room that had seen so much life into four baron walls.  It would take a lifetime to account for 37 years of stories depicting despair, exhilaration, hope, distain, laughter, and, tears.  If only these walls could talk!   But they can’t and it doesn’t matter anyway.  It was just time to move on and seek new adventures.

The quote that hung on my office door for many years was tattered and the ink had faded long ago.  I had used its words many times coaxing my students to take risks and jump over the precipices that are found on the journey.  As my students cleared my office I read its words for the last time. “A ship in the harbor is safe but that’s not what ships are built for.”  I realized that these thoughts are now meant for me.  

When you leave safe ground and step off into a new place there are feelings of curiosity and excitement, and a little nagging of dread. It’s the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your first bond with the limitless possibilities that wait.

Sevada took the old sign that leaned against the bookcase depicting my core philosophy.  “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.”  Glendale College gave me this remarkable journey and it was a great ride.  I thought of the words of Robert Frost. “The woods are lovely dark and deep and I‘ve got promises to keep and miles to before I sleep.”

I still have some juice left.  Maybe I’ll teach high school, or help Mrs. Pruden’s second grade class at LCE, maybe I’ll write another book or join the CIA.  But as Helen Keller once said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

It’s important to work for that pot of gold.  But sometimes it’s essential that your most important decision of the day is to watch the ebb and flow of the ocean at Corona Del Mar.

It took my students three hours to dismantle the office that took 37 year to build; there was nothing remaining.  At the end of the evening I walked back in with Andre.  “Dr. Joe,  There’s nothing left,” he said.  I replied, “Only memories Andre!” 

We closed the door and left to smoke a hookah.       

 

           

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on by Dr. Joe in Thoughts from Dr. Joe Leave a comment

Changing Sergeant Ramos


Yea! Yea! Yea! I’m writing about Girl Scout Cookies again!   What of it?  Last year I gave you a break and didn’t say a word about the fact that 52,426 Girl Scouts were selling cookies all over La Canada.

t’s their right of passage and it’s part of what defines us as a community.  Little girls in uniforms, going door to door, selling in front of Ralphs, and hitting up grandparents is folkloric.  It’s Americana at its best.  It’s something out of a Norman Rockwell Painting.  You know all those qualities that we think so important to transmit to our kids: enterprise, self-reliance, initiative, fiscal responsibility, creativity, teamwork etc.  Well…contrary to Jefferson Starship’s perspective, this city wasn’t built on Rock n’ Roll.  It was built on Girl Scout cookies.  When you buy a box of Girl Scout cookies you are investing in children, the community, and in America.

Years ago, I wrote a story about a serendipitous encounter I had with Sergeant Ramos.  At the time he was a returning veteran from Iraq and a former squad leader in 3/5. (3rd Battalion, 5th Marines)  Somehow he recognized me as the guy who sent Girl Scout cookies to the Marines during the fight in Fallujah, 2004.  He introduced himself, bought me a drink, and has not stopped thanking me for sending his Marines boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

It wasn’t the cookies that were ingratiating.  It was the love, the awareness of where they were, appreciating what they were doing, and not forgetting them.   Sergeant Ramos is forever grateful for the validation troop 889 gave his Marines.  A validation disguised as Samoas, thin mints, and trefoils.

The Girl Scouts are out in force selling cookies and will be looking for you.  Buy a box or two or 10 and say they are for the troops, or for The Gift of Caring.  The scout will know what to do.

We live our lives in a state of disconnect from the harsh realities that our service men and women experience.  They are there and we are here, so that’s just the way it goes.  We distance ourselves from their experience because the hard detailed reality of their everyday existence and heroism is too vast for our comprehension.

I have been counseling veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) since I returned from Vietnam.  It’s not always the horrific that creates despondency.  Mostly it’s the disconnect as we ignore them and go about our lives while they bleed and die.

Believe me, a package from home, a box of Girl Scout cookies, or a simple note particularly from children does unimaginable things to soldiers in forward positions.

Let me get back to my story about Sergeant Ramos.

The Sergeant and I became friends.  I’ve spent many hours dealing with his demons, his nightly ghosts that surface reminding him of three tours in Iraq.  There is no cure for PTSD.  The best we can hope for is to live, be productive, and continue the journey.  It’s something that you learn to live with.  I convinced him to study at Glendale College.  He made the dean’s list, transferred to USC, and will receive a Master’s in Counseling in June.

Currently he is interning at the Veteran’s Administration helping young veterans deal with PTSD issues.  Sergeant Ramos will survive his demons.  In turn he will help many young soldiers survive theirs and live productive lives.

This connection began with you!  In 2005 you bought Girl Scout cookies and delivered them to the Valley Sun. Troop 8891 brought them to Carolyn Blashek of Operation Gratitude.  She sent them to Sergeant Ramos.  He met me; came to Glendale College; got his Master’s and will help many veterans at the VA.

The chain doesn’t break with Sergeant Ramos. It will continue infinitely because of the cookies that you sent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on by Dr. Joe in Thoughts from Dr. Joe Leave a comment

December 12th appeared like any other manic Monday.  I drove my girls to LCHS, went to Starbucks, and continued my struggle with chapter 12 searching for the right words that would give readers an ‘ah ha’ moment.

The weather was sunny… a beautiful Indian summers’ day.  If you’ve been to New England in October, you would understand.  Alen made a café latte and I sat in the sun memorized by the aromatic vapors oozing from my favorite ceramic cup.  I wrote page after page, and didn’t care that I would eventually delete most of it.

When I was in the bowels of Vietnam I promised myself such moments if I were to return.  Life did not get any better than this!

As I watched the remaining leaves cascading from the trees, I said, “Today… I’m going to retire!” 

I went to school, signed papers, and began the process of closing the door on 37 years of teaching, counseling, saving souls, mending hearts, and patching self-esteems.  Facebook, the new Paul Revere spread the news through the veins of the social networks, “Dr. Joe is retiring.”

My last day was December 19th.  My office was inundated with 100’s of books: history, literature, philosophy, biography, adventure, psychology, and humanities were testaments of the transference of knowledge that happened there.  

My four walls were covered from floor to ceiling with pictures of students from 1975 to 2012.  The plan was to dismantle the office at 7 PM.  Students from the 80’s, 90’s and beyond began to arrive, and as planned began the slow methodical process of transforming a room that had seen so much life into four baron walls.  It would take a lifetime to account for 37 years of stories depicting despair, exhilaration, hope, distain, laughter, and, tears.  If only these walls could talk!   But they can’t and it doesn’t matter anyway.  It was just time to move on and seek new adventures.

The quote that hung on my office door for many years was tattered and the ink had faded long ago.  I had used its words many times coaxing my students to take risks and jump over the precipices that are found on the journey.  As my students cleared my office I read its words for the last time. “A ship in the harbor is safe but that’s not what ships are built for.”  I realized that these thoughts are now meant for me.  

When you leave safe ground and step off into a new place there are feelings of curiosity and excitement, and a little nagging of dread. It’s the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your first bond with the limitless possibilities that wait.

Sevada took the old sign that leaned against the bookcase depicting my core philosophy.  “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.”  Glendale College gave me this remarkable journey and it was a great ride.  I thought of the words of Robert Frost. “The woods are lovely darks and deep and I‘ve got promises to keep and miles to before I sleep.”

I still have some juice left.  Maybe I’ll teach high school, or help Mrs. Pruden’s second grade class at LCE, maybe I’ll write another book or join the CIA.  But as Helen Keller once said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

It’s important to work for that pot of gold.  But sometimes it’s essential that your most important decision of the day is to watch the ebb and flow of the ocean at Corona Del Mar.

It took my students three hours to dismantle the office; there was nothing remaining.  At the end of the evening I walked back in with Andre.  “Dr. Joe,” he said.  “There’s nothing left.”  “Only memories Andre!” 

We closed the door and left to smoke a hookah.       

 

           

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on by Dr. Joe in Thoughts from Dr. Joe Leave a comment